Incredibly Round Electrons

In the search for the perfect sphere, something very very small has just taken the lead.

The wee electron has gotten its most thorough physical examination yet, and scientists report that it is almost, almost a perfect sphere. Researchers at Imperial College London have determined the electron is just 0.000000000000000000000000001 centimeter off from being perfectly round.

Put another way, if the electron was magnified to the size of the solar system, it would deviate from immaculate rotundity by a magnitude equivalent to a human hair. That's pretty damn incredible.

Note: Not at all what electrons look like. These are creepy sperm/snake electrons, apparently from  an alternate universe... 

UPS to use Lego Trucks

Ok, not quite - but UPS is planning on building plastic trucks which snap together in innovative ways... so basically lego trucks.

Not sure why no one has done this before, but basically, this truck is built using ABS plastic instead of metal and paint, which reduces the cost of maintenance significantly (though somewhat increasing the build cost). What it means is that for small scrapes, nothing is needed, and for bigger accidents, body repairs can be done cheaply and easily, simply popping off one plastic panel and popping a new one on. Finally, and most importantly, it saves 1,000lbs off the usual 10,000lbs weight of these trucks, which also lets them use a smaller 150hp mill rather than their usual 200hp unit (and yeah... 150hp does seem mighty small for 9,000lbs, or about 3 normal small cars).

Gold Farming for Inmates

Jail in China is not a place that you want to be. Unfortunately, it is pretty easy to end up there, simply by saying things like "gee I wish the govt. did not take away my house without paying me, to build a new highway in my garden".

But if  you do perhaps question the right of the government to run over your house, or limit the number of children you have, or decide where you live, where you work, what you buy, what you write or what you read, then you could quickly end up in a forced labor camp (because China really does not want to have to pay for its prisons).

You will be spending 12hrs a day in a coal mine, which is not exactly a wonderful way to spend you time. Especially when this is a Chinese prison coal mine, where human labor is cheap, abundant, and replaceable.

However, at night? Yeah, you don't get to sleep. You have to spend your time playing World of Warcraft to farm gold, for that to be sold at a profit online. Which is, well, pretty damn messed up. And no, I am sure that after your shift in the coal mine, a chance to play WoW for the 200th night in a row, doing the same damn thing repetitively is not exactly rest and relaxation.

Damn That's Spicy

So, there is spicy... and spicy.

It turns out that on the scale of spicy, Jalapenos are basically for babies and grandmothers - or most white kids. Watching Man vs. Food, I saw the host (who is usually very good with spicy food) get taken down by Ghost peppers like most of the rest of us would be put down by habaneros.

My business idea? Pepper spray wings. People would be stupid enough to order them, you have them sign a waiver, and damn they would be easy to make...

Scoville heat unitsExamples
15,000,000–16,000,000Pure capsaicin[9]
8,600,000–9,100,000Various capsaicinoids (e.g., homocapsaicinhomodihydrocapsaicinnordihydrocapsaicin)
5,000,000–5,300,000Law enforcement grade pepper spray,[10] FN 303 irritant ammunition
855,000–1,463,700Infinity Chilli,[11] Naga Viper pepper,[12] Naga Jolokia pepper (ghost chili)[13][14] Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper[15]
350,000–580,000Red Savina habanero[16]
100,000–350,000Habanero chili,[17] Scotch bonnet pepper,[17] Datil pepperRocotoPiri piri (African bird's eye)Madame Jeanette, Jamaican hot pepper[18]
50,000–100,000Byadgi chilliBird's eye chili,[19] Malagueta pepper,[19] Chiltepin pepperPequin pepper[19]
30,000–50,000Guntur chilliCayenne pepperAjí pepper,[17] Tabasco pepper, Cumari pepper (Capsicum Chinese)
10,000–23,000Serrano pepperPeter pepperAleppo pepperCheong-Yang pepper
2,500–8,000Jalapeño pepperGuajillo pepper, New Mexican varieties of Anaheim pepper,[20] Paprika (Hungarian wax pepper), Tabasco sauce
500–2,500Anaheim pepperPoblano pepperRocotillo pepperPeppadewPadron pepper
100–500PimentoPeperonciniBanana pepper
0No significant heat, Bell pepperCubanelleAji dulce

Free Navigation Chart BoSooklets

So, this is a little different than my usual BoN posts - but I thought this was interesting to point out.

To anyone who has a boat - this is pretty sweet. I have been sailing for years, and I did not know this existed until today.

NOAA puts out free charts that you can use with your laptop, but I never thought there was an easy way to print them off. It was nice to have a backup on a laptop, but not something I really used. It is annoying how much chart companies chart for what are basically paper printouts of something the Govt. provides for free to aid navigation.

But now, to help small-boaters etc, NOAA has put together booklets which you can print off of an 8x10 printer and create some quite good navigational charts. Are they a replacement for a really good chart book or a GPS nav system with charts? No, but they do provide a good level of detail, especially for the recreational boater.

Now you know there is at least one useful thing your taxes are being used for...

No Wagon For You!

Globally, does Audi sell more A6 sedans or wagons?

Turns out that around the world, 60% of all Audi A6s sold are in fact wagons. Why? Well, the A6 is a relatively sporty and very nice car, which when you get the much more useful wagon version, is probably a more capable all around vehicle than almost any crossover.

Now, when my Mom was looking for a new car, I sadly came across the fact that Audi would not sell a wagon in the US with a stickshift, which was pretty annoying.

But now? We are not going to get the new A6 wagon at all.

2012 Audi A6 Avant

First, I will definitely say that Audi is going with evolution, not revolution. But this is still a nice looking car (though really - it has nothing on the CTS wagon...), and more than that, it is a very practical car - beating out most crossovers for interior space. And lets face it folks, rear hatchbacks are far, far more useful than trunks. They just are. 

But, because American's born within the last 40 years have somehow come hardwired with the equation wagon=lame, Audi has decided that it is not even worth importing the A6 wagon anymore.

On the other side of things, my generation is increasingly adopting hatchbacks, so maybe in 10-20 years when we are older, wealthier, and kid-haviningier, wagons will make a comeback.

Until then, I will soldier on knowing that I at least love the look of the now defunct Magnum and the probably soon to be defunct CTS wagon.

Classic Eats

I think that just like micro-brewed beer started to make a comeback about 30 years ago and is now an established part of the market, eating "traditional" foods which have fallen out of favor will also come back in.

Now, I am not going to be one to say that you should head out and have some sheeps head, but on the other hand there are a number of foods which we have ignored because.. well.. they are a little odd.

Alternately, you can just think of this as a cookbook for the post-crow-zombie apocalypse..

Give squirrel a whirl
May 20th, 2011
09:15 AM ET
I have a squirrel guy. His name is Buddy and by trade he's a sound engineer, but in his heart of hearts, he's a hunter. Buddy doesn't hunt simply for sport; he, his girlfriend and his son cook only meat and fish that they have personally dispatched.
If Buddy's willing to share meat with me, I say, 'thank you' and take what he's offering. I know his kill was clean, quick and respectful, it'll be expertly cleaned and dressed, and no way am I going to find anything of its variety or caliber in my local butcher shop or supermarket.
That doesn't mean that when he offered me a brace of squirrels, I didn't initially have pause. I got over that pretty pretty quickly - and deliciously - and you should, too. Here's why.

1. Squirrel is the chicken of the trees
To paraphrase blogger turned cookbook author Hank Shaw - if you wanted to starve to death in the wilderness, you'd have to try pretty hard. Squirrels are plentiful - overly so in some regions. Buddy initially began dispatching the squirrels because they were savaging the garden he'd so carefully planted. Their numbers were seemingly undiminished.
"Awwwwww!" you might coo. "But they're so adorable and sweet and and how could you be so very cruel as to eat the precious Disney fluffy-wuffy?"
Yup – they're all just darling until the day when you walk into your kitchen to find that one has gnawed through your window screen to make himself a snack of your tortillas. He's just there, lounging about on your table all bushy-tailed and cavalier until he spots you...and snarls...and then everything is a blur of tortillas and mange and horror.
There are plenty of squirrels in the world. You can stand to eat a few.
2. Squirrel is a locavore's delight
You probably - okay really oughtn't go strolling into Central Park or an urban alleyway in search of prey. Not only would that be highly illegal; you are what you eat, and you are what that squirrel eats and that's not going to work out well for either one of you.
If you stick with forest squirrels or those that have been subsisting on your garden largesse, you know exactly what that beastie has been snacking on. It had a pretty footloose and fancy-free life in the great outdoors - certainly better than that of a factory-farmed chicken or pig. Meat really doesn't get more local than from your own or your friend's backyard.
3. Squirrel is a classic
While it may have fallen out of modern favor, if you crack open older editions of The Joy of Cooking or your grandmother's recipe stash, you're sure to find recipes and tips for cooking with squirrel. In many parts of the country, squirrel has never gone out of vogue in the local cuisine. It's a must in traditional Kentucky burgoo, some Brunswick stews, plenty of casseroles - and apparently in Mike Huckabee's college dorm popcorn popper.
In this age of kitchen retro, heirloom seeds and canning fetishism, it just makes sense to take a page from grandma and give squirrel a whirl.
4. Squirrel is easy to cook
In the video below, I've just simmered the squirrel until the meat was tender, then served it shredded on a plate. Texas chef Tim Love gives his a nice, long braise with minimal seasonings so as to let the meat's rich flavor be the star. If he's planning to pop it on the grill, since the meat can be tough, he'll brine it with salt and chiles first to tenderize it. Any method that's suitable for rabbit should be just dandy with squirrel.
5. Squirrel just tastes great
When I popped a plate of braised squirrel on the table, guests first approached hesitantly, then began shoveling strands into their mouths. For most, it was an initiation (it's generally illegal to sell wild game, so you have to have a source like Buddy), but seemingly not to be an isolated instance of enjoyment.
The general consensus was that it tasted more earthy and sumptuous than the darkest turkey they'd ever tasted - and wouldn't it be great in a ragout, stew, or cassoulet?
One might even say they went a bit...squirrely for it - but that would just be nuts.

The Rise of Mobile Advertising

The second amazing fact coming out of Amazon today is that the $115 Ad-supported Kindle is outselling the $140 normal Kindle. That means people are willing to save $25 in return for having to see some moderately annoying advertising on their mobile devices. Well, yeah, this has already been made pretty clear by the apple and android app stores - but that is kind of different, you can close the app and then no longer have to see the ads. In the case of the Kindle - advertising will become your screen saver. So when you lay your kindle down on the coffee table, you are going to get some great offers on new bedding or cheap tickets to Timbuktu.

I wonder then how long before other manufacturers hop onto this bandwagon. Ad supported phones are the most obvious next step - would you be willing to live with that?

Personally, I would just pay the damn $25. Or, better yet - buy a used one on eBay for $75...

The Death of Books

In April, Amazon sold 105 ebooks for every 100 paper books.

That is amazing, and somewhat terrifying. And the numbers are "real" - they do not include free ebooks, so the numbers are not artificially inflated.

Does this mean that paper books are going to dissapear? No - just like peak oil, we are not going to see the end of real books any time soon. But it is a sign that, well, they are on their way out.

And that kind of sucks. Because while I love gadgets, and while I see a place for ereaders, I just cant get past the fact that ebooks are fundamentally temporary. Sure, you can keep them on your device as long as you want, and you might even be able to transfer them to a new device when you get one, but in the long run, those books are not going to stick around, just as the papers you wrote in college on a computer are much less likely to be around when you retire than the crappy drawing of a turkey with you hand as feathers you did in 1st grade. Depending on the quality of your turkey, you may see that as a good thing, but I am not sure I do (I drew a damn good turkey).

The net result is that if you are thinking of getting into the book printing business, I would suggest alternate ways of wasting capital.

God bless you Gutenberg, you had a good run.

France Sucks

I really can't stand France. 

Fed up with a President who is pro-capitalist, stands up for Democracy, and has tried to tackle the laziness of the French workforce, it has been widely expected that Sarkozy would not win his bid for reelection. 

The person who was tipped to replace him? Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the current (update - nope, he resigned) head of the IMF. 

Now, he was just arrested in New York for assault and sexual harassment of a hotel maid. The maid, a 32-year-old immigrant from Guinea, told police that Strauss-Kahn, 62, came out of the bathroom naked, chased her down, forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear before she broke free and fled the room. And how does France react?

By defending his rampant sexual abuse and claiming that France is the victim here:

Jean-Marie Le Guen, a Socialist party MP who has known Strauss-Kahn for 25 years, said the story was "not credible" and inconsistent with what he knew of the politician's character. "Seduction, yes, but no way would he use constraint or violence. A certain number of facts, and certain aspects of the story we are hearing from the press, make this not credible."

"What they are asking us to believe … it's just hallucinations. I'm a doctor and I know this can happen. We knew there would be hyper-violent attacks on him [Strauss-Kahn]. We could hear the knives being sharpened in preparation."

Political commentators spoke of the affair as a disgrace and humiliation for France, referring to the country as "the victim" in the affair. Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the ecology minister, did at least mention the 32-year-old chambermaid allegedly attacked by Strauss-Kahn. "As well as the presumed victim, the chambermaid, there is a proven victim … France. We should remember the facts are very serious; in France we tend to treat things like this a little bit lightly," she told news agency AFP.

Not only that, but DSK is a total d-bag as well, with only a few weeks ago pointing out in an interview that the biggest challenges to his presidency were:  "Money, women and the fact I am Jewish." He added: "Yes, I like women ... so what?" He said he could see himself becoming the victim of a honey trap: "a woman raped in a car park and who's been promised 500,000 or a million euros to invent such a story ..."

Really asshole? Because right now, this is what he is saying "I think at this time first of my wife – whom I love more than anything – of my children, of my family, of my friends." Yeah... 

So there you have it: France sucks. I mean, I can't stand Obama, but this guy is sleazy in a way that makes Clinton look shiny. 

F1 Turbo 4: WTF?

F1 has decided that instead of big expensive V8's they are going to start using small, economical, fuel-efficient turbo charged 4 cylinder engines.

Which means yes, F1 is basically like your Aunt Mary. And it means no more of this:

It is, quite simply, an idiotic idea. F1 is F1 - not your sunday grocery getter. What makes sense for Aunt Mary does not make sense for the highest-powered all-you-can-handle racing league in the world. Granted, F1 cars have been on a decidedly downward trajectory since the v10s of the mid-90's, but this is not just a step down, it's more tripping and falling into a half-dug grave.

Really, what the hell are they thinking? I have a 4-cylinder turbo and it's great... if you want to balance fuel economy with fun-to-drive. F1 should not be giving a shit about fuel economy. It would be like running the Kentucky Derby on donkeys, because, well, they are just more economical.
Somehow... it's just not quite the same... 
So why is F1 doing it? I don't know. They are really in trouble in my opinion as a series. They have lost most of the big names - with the major exception of Ferrari. And now they want to be green. Fine, but why the hell change the cars? They barely use any fuel at all in the big picture, and there are thousands of other things which make far more sense. F1 has so much money they could just buy a wind-farm and call it a day, or set up a big solar plant in the middle east (which seems to be the rage these days). Changing the cars themselves is idiotic. It would be like downsizing the White House because the federal government wanted to reduce their carbon footprint. Stupid (though probably something Obama is already planning.)

Net result? F1 ain't what it used to be folks. Speaking of which, the Senna biography is now streaming on Netflix, and it is very good. Go watch that instead, and leave F1 to its shame.

No Alfa For Us

Ever since Alfa Romeo left the US market in 1995, they have been saying they will be back. In a very un-Schwarzenegger kind of way, they never actually have been back. Now that Fiat owns Chrysler, it seems like there is a good change we will actually be seeing Alfas.. but their launch just got pushed back another year. The underlying problem is this: Alfa makes beautiful cars which are really not that good. But damn are some of them good looking.

Here is a kind of funny timeline of all of the promises made by Alfa since 2000 about coming back to the US

Truck of the Apocalypse

There are many different theories about what to drive after the apocalypse. Some fall into the dirt-bike/motorcycle school. Others, the beat up wrangler/suburban/range rover school.

However, here, I think we have the best vehicle for the apocalypse: The Ram HD Long-Hauler

ram long-hauler concept

What makes this truck so special? Well, apart from the fact that it is built on the new and much better Ram HD frame, it can hold 170 gallons of diesel to fuel the flamethrowers its 350-horsepower, 6.7-liter Cummins diesel inline six spitting out 650 pound-feet of twist.

So no, its not the most powerful. And yeah, that incredibly long wheelbase means this is not much good off-road nor easy to parallel park between the burnt-out shells of lesser cars, but it does have a range of over 1,600 miles. And that means each time you criss-cross the country looking for some sign of the survival of human civilization, you only have to fill up twice.

Saab Gets in Bed With a Hawtei

Mmm, that's the spot Hawtie... that really tickles my turbo...

Ok, so the real story here is that.. Saab has gotten in bed with Hawtei. Really.

Saab-Hawtai logo
 Yeah... I have no idea who Hawtai is either, and I am really into cars. But basically, Saab was having a real hard time making a go of it, and was not able to pay suppliers etc a few times in the last few months. So they have called up a Chinese partner to help.

The best part? This is Hawtai's logo...

Yeah.... I think they may have gotten a little... inspiration... from somewhere.

There is also of course the Hawtei Cayenne (it's unofficial but commonly used name)
Actually it might be better looking than the real Cayenne

Osama Bin Laden is no more

Hell yeah.

First of all, this took way too long. Second, the fact that he was living in some posh mansion really pisses me off. Third, it makes me really damn happy that this was done by special op ground forces, not a predator strike. He showed himself to be a coward, and spent his last moments facing utter fear, which considering what he had done to so many others, is more than deserved (actually - what he deserved is probably a lifetime of punishment and humiliation, but this is better).

Finally, I want to say that I am a little disconcerted at much of the response I have been hearing from others my own age. War weary and not interested any longer in "war on terror", a lot of the reaction has basically been "it does not really matter." The theory goes, just as Hollywood has told us about terrorist groups so many times, that if you get rid of the leader, then someone else will just pop up. I disagree.

Al Qaeda is not a well-run, highly-organized group with significant ability to project power. We give them far more credit than they deserve. They are a bunch of untrained and often barely capable fighters. Most suicide bombers never reach their targets. About 1/3rd blow themselves up in the room where they prepare, largely because of the custom of giving hearty hugs to the guy heading "to paradise." Countless footage from drones etc show these "freedom fighters" having sex with donkeys outside of their caves. Our men on the ground face a very real threat: fighting on their home turf, often with public support, and using gorilla tactics, Al Qaeda and others can be dangerous. But we should not give them too much credit. Without Bin Laden, they will have a difficult time projecting power outside of the middle east.

Clearly, other leaders will step up, and many already have emerged in the loose-knit structure that is Al Qaeda, but we should still celebrate the fact that we finally brought him down.

Avoid Rhode Island

I am not a fan of Rhode Island. It is a small pocket of trash tucked between MA and CT. It has few redeeming features, and with the exceptions of Portsmouth and Block Island, it basically has none (though I have heard that Providence is getting better).

First up, Rhode Island Pizza..

Basically, it is a cold, cheese-less slice of Sicilian pizza.. yeah... what the hell is wrong with you people.

But more than that, and the reason I am writing this post:
RI has the highest rate of dangerous bridges in the country: 53% are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete... so yeah, if you have to spend time in RI, try not to cross any water.